Well, I know I said I was going to go with Woody, but when I got it all working and started using it I remembered just how __old__ most of the stuff in that release is (testing will probably become stable fairly soon now anyway, so it really must be due an update given the length of Debian cycle) and decided that I’d upgrade from Woody to Sarge.

There were a couple of advantages to this approach:

  1. Woody was more likely to have the (older) stuff needed for hardware support etc and so installed a bit easier
  2. Woody’s tasksel still has the “laptop” task and that installed a bunch of stuff in one shot that I would have had to track down individually otherwise
  3. Upgrading was really easy (although obviously took quite a while to do over the ‘net)
  4. I now have much more incentive to actually compile my own kernel, since when you do a dist-upgrade pretty much everything but the kernel is updated

In terms of what I actually did, there’s a nice tutorial of how to upgrade between releases here. The one thing I’d say is check that the changes are actually happening in your sources.list as you go else you might waste time downloading what you don’t need 😉

So I decided to install Debian 3.0 Woody on my IBM Thinkpad 570, as I was having a few problems with Sarge. As an aide to my own memory, as well as help to anyone else trying to do the same, I thought I’d document the attempt

The Install

First of all I downloaded the mini disk set for the 2.4 kernel — although I have an Ultrabase I couldn’t get it to boot off the CD, so went the external floppy disk drive route. I used the fantastic RawWrite for Windows to write the images — it worked excellently under XP on my win laptop. Stepping through the install was fairly easy — I chose to keep all in one partition with a swap of 301Mb (the first time around when I installed Sarge it ran out of room in the system partition, so this seemed safer) I took the option of having extra kernel modules for USB Mass Storage, Infrared, Sound (cs46xx.o module) and a couple of other bits and pieces.

I had hoped to do the base system install over the ‘net and the install even managed to detect my PCMCIA ethernet card (a 3Com MegaHertz model 3CCFE574BT) and automatically loaded the appropriate kernel module (3c574_cs), but unfortunately although I could configure the network and the lights were on on the dongle showing it was connected, the system told me that my network was “configured but not activated” and no amount of fiddling would fix this. So I went the labour-intensive route and cut the install floppies (all 20!) to install the base system that way. On the up side, as soon as I’d rebooted the network worked perfectly.


There is more detailed discussion in some of the references below, but the summary of my config is:

  • Monitor: Defined it using the Advanced option, HorizRefresh 30-60; VertRefresh 50-75, which then allowed for 1024×768 resolution; selected 16 bit so it would run faster
  • Mouse: Selected as /psaux, type PS/2 and this worked fine for the built-in trackpoint
  • Keyboard: Selected p101 keyboard, uk layout and this seemed to work fine, even though the keyboard of course only has 85 keys
  • PCMCIA: Automagically worked
  • Ethernet: 3Com MegaHertz model 3CCFE574BT worked when defined as the Intel chipset type and “auto” for selection of speed as the RJ45 dongle shows both 10 and 100; working fine since the original reboot
  • Infrared: I selected the recommended modules for the kernel during the install, but haven’t had chance to play with this yet
  • Sound: As mentioned previously, I built the cs46xx.o module into the kernel during the initial Woody install; since the upgrade to Sarge it isn’t working, but that I think is something to do with ALSA having been installed (but I don’t really know!)
  • Power Management: Installed APM as a module in the kernel during the install process. This means I can hit Fn-F4 to suspend and so on — all seems to work fine. Update: It works more than fine. On Monday I took the laptop up to uni with me and used it a bit to take notes in lectures (and show off the new toy) — this left it at about 80% of battery. I then put it on suspend by pressing Fn-F4 and two days later it’s still got 35% battery. So get APM working properly — because you’re worth it!
  • Modem: Since I haven’t used a modem in at least 3 years, didn’t bother to try and get the modem set up. Apparently the drivers are evil binary only as well so you might need to soul search (bottom par)

Useful Sources of Info

Having sorted out all the hardware, decided to try and install Debian Sarge on my Thinkpad 570. First off, I was really impressed by the new Debian Installer. I only needed to cut 3 floppies (one boot, one root and one for the net drivers) and once it had started it manage to fix up the PCMCIA LAN card with no worries. It downloaded the rest of the base system and restarted.

This was when I started to hit problems. Whenever the laptop restarted itself (or I restarted it using Alt-Ctrl-Del) it failed to come back up again … couldn’t mount the hard drive. Power-cycling fixed the issue, so I assume it’s something like APM is missing from the kernel. I toyed with compiling a new kernel (and found a nice quick kernel tut), but tried to run Tasksel first to see if I could get the graphical environment up and running. Tasksel runs, but when you ask it to install a graphical environment it kicks up a fuss and claims it can’t install half of KDE.

That — and the fact that the Tasksel menu under Testing doesn’t appear to have the “Laptop” menu option anymore — made the decision. I’m going to try and install Woody for now instead. Hopefully that will have a bit more of the support needed than Testing, which is understandably still work in progress 😉

As previously mentioned, I’m trying to venture into mobile Linux. After Laptopshop sold me the bogus base station which didn’t have CD or FDD, I ended up wandering around eBay in search of a CD drive that would fit it.

Then of course once I’d procured one, I realise it was too new (i.e. the firmware needed updating) and so needed a floppy drive (to boot from in order to update the CD firmware). So more eBaying ensued and now I’m finally in a position to get the floppy & CD working and to load Linux on the thing. All this hoo-ha is necessary because the 570 is too old to have integrated ethernet and so can’t boot off a network.

The real plus of the whole experience, though, is that I now know a great deal more about this little laptop than I ever did previously. I’ve even managed to navigate IBM’s atrocious website to find the various bits of information I need. (Re the website, it’s only really bad if you’re looking for support info about older models as I was, otherwise it’s not too bad 😉 ) And because I’m a kindly soul (and wouldn’t remember myself if I didn’t blog it), I’m going to post the relevant info here:

Firstly, the precis. The IBM Thinkpad 570 takes the following:

  • Floppy Disk Drives: Teac (FRU 05K8989) or Sony (FRU 05K8990); it’s shipped with a Sony FRU 05K8973
  • Floppy Drive Cable: FRU 05K2844
  • Ultrabase: P/N 12P4018, FRU 12P4017. In theory this can take a CD drive (or similar) in its UltraSlimBay on the left and a FDD or extra battery on the right

Secondly, here are all the info links that you might have to trawl the IBM website and other places for:

Everyone else is getting better but I’m still rather ill. The worst is being not so ill that I have to stay in bed all day, but not well enough to manage to concentrate for more than a few minutes. So I’m terminally bored and unable to get any work done. Since the others are all better, I also have no opponents to play Risk or Monopoly with and I think I’ve exhausted my Flash games repertoire for now.

So I decided to try find a computer version of Risk, for Linux. So far I’ve come up with the following:

  • TEG — this appears to be risk-like and I’ve managed to install it, but unfortunately the help files won’t display, there doesn’t seem to be an online copy and I can’t figure out how to start a local (vs AI) game
  • There’s also a Java version JTeg, but I evidently have too old/new a version of Java on my system as it won’t start properly
  • Wordog looks interesting but again I can’t get it to play and don’t have the concentration span needed to RTFM
  • XFRisk I have managed to get running, but it isn’t particularly happy for some reason … it won’t start games properly even when the AI players are fired up etc. Possibly some sort of incompatibility with my version of X or something

So essentially I’ve had no luck but I’ve amused myself trying for the past few hours and maybe have a project to do when I eventually get some free time — a PyRisk implementation! In the meantime, Any suggestions welcome! I am off to watch crap Sat night telly for now tho.

As mentioned previously we all have Mumps. As a result we’re finding it difficult to get any work done (as you tend to feel light-headed/dozy/generally crap most of the time) and insanely bored.

Various methods of alleviating of this boredom have been employed in our house over the past while, so I thought I’d share:

  • Playing Risk and following Eddie Izzard‘s advice about which continents you really have to plumb for
  • Playing Monopoly — the English Board version
  • The Bubble Game, originally arrived at via Elmyra’s LJ
  • BlastBilliards
  • Reading far too much of the web, but then failing to blog about it
  • Watching some fantastic flash animations including The Everyone Else Has More Sex Than Me Bunny (via NoVisAnima) and the Suicidal Lemmings Video
  • Playing mesmerizing but incomprehensible games like Grow, Vanilla and Tontie
  • Updates:
  • Enjoying the hamper of goodies our friends delivered as well as the suspicion that our neighbours think something really weird is going on, as people keep coming to the door, ringing the doorbell, putting down a package and then running back to the end of the path and shouting threats/condolences/jibes/jokes at us when we answer
  • Roadies also warrants a mention — it’s a bit like The Incredible Machine although with far fewer levels 😉 Top score so far is 11375 upon completion
  • Enjoying the gorgeous bread that Tony made for us and delivered. Hopefully he’ll take this as a hint to start blogging again and post the recipe
  • To be expanded as the boredom continues…

I’ve said before that geeks think differently. Yesterday, however, Si chose to once again highlight how different the thought patterns can be.

We were all lined up in front of the telly, waiting for our starring appearance to come on the evening news. A number of our friends had already said they’d very much like to see us all look mump-ridden on ITV News but wouldn’t be near a television at the appropriate time, so could we please tape it for them. Now our video machine has issues. Connecting to the television doesn’t quite work (unless you connect at exactly the right not-quite-secure angle and squint a bit), tuning in is a separate issue and in any case it has been known to chew tapes so we weren’t too happy giving up the first few mins of any sort of tape that we wanted to keep. No blanks around. Bollocks.

The average household (mump-ridden or no) would have given up at 6pm when the show was about to start. Not so the House of Geek. Simon grabbed his laptop and trusty iSight, pointed it at the television screen. Some fiddling, a little positioning and a few software glitches later, the relevant 2 minute shot was captured. We then continued the aliasing conversation we had started earlier with the fearful cameraman, trying to explain the range of defects in the sample Si had captured.

Moral of the story: don’t aim products at us, kids. We just don’t think like normal people.